Not sure if you can relate, but I always tend to feel guilt-tripped by leftovers sitting in my fridge. Often, I repurpose leftover odds and ends into other meals and it works swimmingly. Sometimes I even arrive at a new favorite meal or two.
Sometimes, I run into a bit of trouble brainstorming what I’m going to do with my “lefties.”
The other day, I had to use up some red cabbage that was quickly approaching the point of no return. To save it from the bin, I braised it with some Asian-inspired flavors. We ended up with a lot of braised cabbage. Too much to eat in one or two sittings. And I was having trouble figuring out how to repurpose it.
One of my favorite tricks, especially when I need to use up a ton of veg (raw or pre-cooked) is to make okonomiyaki. Nick and I first learned of the joys of this popular Japanese street-food when we were actually in Japan last April. In Osaka, to be exact.
The land of the most glorious comfort food.
What is okonomiyaki?
Okonomiyaki is basically a giant savory pancake, filled with various odds and ends (fancy stuff like prawns or bacon), and topped with an intricate cross-stitch pattern of Kewpie mayo and special Japanese-style BBQ sauce. It’s then finished with generous portions of thinly-sliced green onions and/or nori (dried seaweed) and a handful of bonito flakes. These dried fish flakes dance and squirm from the heat of the pancake and the effect looks like they are alive. It’s quite fun.
Anyway, I typically make a muuuuuuch more toned down version at home. It takes about 5 minutes to whip up the batter, and 15 minutes to cook the whole thing on the stovetop.
It’s essentially a veggie fritter/pancake but giant, which means you don’t have to stand in front of your stove top for half an hour cooking and flipping tiny individual rounds.
Okonomiyaki is a great zero waste recipe to have up your sleeve
I used my leftover braised cabbage for my most recent okonomiyaki rendition. It worked really well and didn’t get soggy (something I was afraid would happen).
For the record, you can use pre-cooked veg but it works just as well (even better) with raw. That way, the veggies retain a bit of crunch. Mixed with the warm and tender batter, it’s a win-win in our book.
Oh, and while the toppings (nori, bonito flakes, mayo and okonomiyaki sauce) are not things easily found outside of their packaging (so not very zero waste), you can improvise at home and top them however you like. Or make a dipping sauce to dip the pancake in.
I’m still workshopping a good sauce replacement that I can make sans plastic packaging. Stay tuned!
How to make okonomiyaki at home
- 1 cup AP flour
- 2 eggs
- ¾ cup water/broth (flavored with a combo of these ingredients, to taste: soy sauce, fish sauce, chopped garlic, grated ginger, ground ginger, red pepper flakes, salt, pepper)
- 3-4 cups thinly sliced veggies
- 2 tbsp butter
Here’s the process:
- Whisk together 1 cup AP flour with 2 eggs, ¾ cup water/broth. I might flavor this with soy sauce, fish sauce, chopped garlic or ginger to give it more depth.
- Mix in 3-4 cups thinly sliced veggies until well combined. Cabbage is the most typical choice here, but I’ll also throw in onions, green onions, shredded carrots, etc -- really whatever I have on hand. Just make sure it’s in small pieces/thin slices.
- Melt 2 tbsp butter/oil in a large and lidded skillet over medium-high heat. Pour the entire batter into the pan and flatten and shape into a round pancake with a spatula/spoon. Cover the pan and cook for 7-10 minutes until the bottom is nicely browned.
- Flip the pancake. This is how I do it: With oven mitts, take the entire pan with the lid over to the sink. Holding the sides of the pan to keep it tightly closed, flip the pan (carefully) and open so that the pancake is sitting on the upside down lid of the pan. Slide it back into the pan. Put back onto the stovetop.
- Cook on the other side until it’s brown and crispy and cooked through (about 5-7 minutes more).
- Serve hot with whatever fun toppings you have on hand (mayo, BBQ sauce, green onions, bonito flakes, thinly sliced nori, etc.)
Favorite photos from our trip to Japan
And because cooking food is one of the surest ways to recall happy memories, I couldn’t not include some of my favorite photos from our trip to Japan last year. Get ready, they are mostly food-related. Are you surprised, though?